How To Prepare For A DIY Western Dream Hunt: [Part 2]

I consider the topics covered in Part One the “hard stuff,” and if you’ve completed and/or considered all of it, congratulations. Now all that’s left is what I consider the most-enjoyable aspects of hunt prep:

by Mark Melotik

HuntStand Pro Contributor MORE FROM Mark

As your dream hunt begins to take shape, it’s time for a few refinements. Amassing (and field-testing) the right gear, regular shooting practice, and getting in the best shape possible is your mission. Eyes on the prize!

BighornGood 600In Part One of this Two-Part feature on preparing for a western DIY hunt, I talked about some of the steps for choosing the right area and species, and even delved into some advice on hunting partners, fitness, and helpful online scouting using the HuntStand app.

I consider the topics covered in Part One the “hard stuff,” and if you’ve completed and/or considered all of it, congratulations. Now all that’s left is what I consider the most-enjoyable aspects of hunt prep: Fine-tuning and otherwise assembling my gear, practicing regularly with my bow, and continuing to stare at my hunt-area maps using my HuntStand app, late into the evenings. My goals now are to go over my hunt areas with a proverbial fine-tooth comb, looking for areas that might lead me to success, and generally, dreaming of encounters with big bucks and bulls.

Gear 600Some Thoughts On Gear. Once you’ve got your hunt area figured out, assembling and fine-tuning your gear should be your primary task. This does not mean you need to go out and buy all new equipment merely because you are going on a DIY hunt, but at a minimum, you should go through your gear and ensure each item is up for the task at hand. Put simply, all your gear choices should only help, and not in any way hinder, your chances for success. With the exception of your choices in boots, bow or rifle, none of it will really “make or break” your hunt, but a wrong choice at most any level can definitely make things miserable, and lower your odds for success. To my way of thinking, DIY hunting it tough enough without any piece of my gear working against me. Do your gear research well, buy quality stuff, and it should serve you well and last a good long time.

KryptekClothing Choices Get Critical. Being properly outfitted for the hunt not only adds to your comfort while afield, but ensures you are protected from the elements. Your choices can be critical when looking to avoid hunt-ending disasters such as heat stroke or hypothermia. For me, heading into the remote areas of Northern British Columbia, I know my apparel choices can literally mean the difference between life and death. Backcountry hunting in late August and September in areas such as those found in BC not only feature huge roadless expanses that can require days of hiking to get out—you can also experience weather ranging from upwards of 100 degrees, to snowy blizzards.

Widely changing high-country weather is why “layering” is so important.  I depend on merino wool or synthetic base layers, as well as lightweight synthetic soft shells, lightweight and easily compactible down-insulated layers, as well as a dependably waterproof outer shell. All play critical roles throughout a typical hunt. There are lots of solid clothing options for the western hunter, but for my style of backcountry hunting I have found Kryptek’s broad product line to be a perfect fit that covers all of my needs.

Optics 600Choose Optics Wisely. Whether you’re out on the prairie fighting heat waves or perched high on a mountain ridge with broad panoramic views, success is next to impossible if you can’t locate your quarry. This is why choosing quality optics is so important; I depend on Nikon glass.

For western-friendly binoculars, I recommend a minimum of 10 power; they offer “extra reach” you will appreciate, and allow you to maintain a nice steady field of view while being hand-held. For spotting scopes, I like a 20‐60 power. If you’re looking to shave some weight, you can resort to a lighter fixed power model, but for my needs, and especially for hunting out west, I like the versatility of a nice and strong variable-power model. I also consider a quality rangefinder a smart addition. Although not required, for me a compact, lightweight rangefinder removes one more element of potential shooting error, especially in uneven terrain.

Hoyt 600Bring Enough Weapon For The Task. Depending on which DIY hunt you’ve decided to embark on, you need to ensure your setup is up for the task. If you’ve always been a treestand deer hunter—using something along the lines of a .243 rifle, or maybe a 50-pound bow—you’ll benefit from switching to a heavier, more-powerful rig if your new goal, say, is an Alaskan moose. As a general rule, I try to use a caliber or bow that is more than capable of taking down any species in the area–especially on a “mixed-bag” trip, or where there is a chance of encountering large predators. This is why I will be packing a 70-pound Hoyt Defiant Turbo on my remote BC trip, and my hunting partner will be toting a .338 Win. Mag.

Arrows 600You Won’t Regret Adding Quality Ammo/Arrows. You could have the best bow or gun there is, but without the proper arrows or ammunition, you’re asking for less-than-perfect results. For bowhunters I recommend a heavy, deep penetrating arrow with a proven broadhead. For rifle hunters, make sure the load of choice is proven for your rifle–not just a random box of “discount” bullets purchased off the counter on your way to the hunt. Important keys to success are precision and consistency—which is why I choose to build all of my own arrows, and load my own ammunition. For my BC bowhunting trip, I have chosen Carbon Express Maxima Red arrows tipped with Grim Reaper broadheads.

Boots 600Extreme Hunting Demands Extreme Boots. Effectively hunting the west starts and ends with your footwear. If your boots fail, it does not matter how good of shape you’re in, how good a hunter you are, or even how well you know the area or how far you are able to shoot. Boot failure means your hunt is over. Hunting near civilization, you have the ability to make a “detour” to buy a second pair of boots to “save” a long-awaited hunt. Remote BC offers no such fail-safe. I will be days from the nearest road on this hunt, and knew my boot choice would be critical. In the end my choice was a no-brainer: Kenetrek HardScrabble Hikers.

GoalZero 600Don’t Forget Specialty Gear. Whether you’re filming or photographing your hunt, or planning on using devices like your phone (for accessing the HuntStand app), utilizing modern technology is an all-too-common part of hunting these days. And sadly, whether it’s a headlamp, phone, satellite messenger, or camera batteries, gear has a way of dying when you need it the most. Since I will be looking to document my Northern BC adventure, I will be packing-in a lightweight, compact Goal Zero solar panel and charging system. Not only will this allow me to keep my camera gear charged and ready to go, it will ensure operation, and my piece of mind, with some other key pieces of emergency gear such as a satellite phone.

FieldTest 600‘Field-Test’ Trips Can Prevent Disaster. Purchasing all the best gear for your trip which you’ve read rave reviews about online, does not automatically make your arsenal “good to go.” No matter the manufacturer or its reputation, there are times when a specific piece of gear just does not hold up, or work the way that it was intended. This is why you should “hit the hills” well before your fall adventure, and make every effort to use and (at least lightly) abuse your chosen gear. This will allow any major gear issues to surface (and be rectified) well before your hunt. Make a “field-testing” trip fun and productive by combining it with some physical preparation as well–carry a fully-loaded pack and use the same boots and other clothing. Small game hunting is one of my favorite ways to test gear; I like to load up my pack with weight, grab all my optics, and hit the hills.

Goals 600Set Smart Goals And Stick To Them. Final hunt preparations include obtaining all your required tags and licenses well ahead of time, and of course, a myriad of other logistical travel and other seemingly small details that can loom big if unresolved. After all those is remembering one last important step–not getting complacent or losing motivation! This means committing to regular practice at the range, as well as staying on top of your fitness, and not “giving in” and resorting to the couch or a fast-food diet. As part of my BC mixed-bag hunt routine, I’ve committed to shooting each and every day—even if it’s from just 5 yards inside my house—as well as running a daily 5km (at a minimum). Two big goals, but so far, so good.

BodyLEAD 600These two articles should have given you a solid platform for planning your next western, DIY hunt. Hopefully, this will be the year that your DIY dreams become a reality, and that you enjoy every part of the process. I know that my upcoming BC hunt will be a success, regardless of the outcome; stay tuned to this fall for what will hopefully be a report of an epic mixed-bag adventure, fresh from the wilds of northern British Columbia.



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